IMG_6364-Edit-2.jpg on Flickr.
With my next two motorcycle projects waiting patiently in my garage, I figured it was time to tear down the XS and make it a bit more complete. Tackling another project without wrapping one seems a bit silly.
On another note, I have my own space (temporarily) at ADX, which precipitated a really great feeling last night. I realized, when I wheeled the bike in and plopped my toolbox on the ground, that I have never before had my own workspace. Prior projects at ADX were always undertaken in the shared workspaces—which are totally fine and useful, but not like having private space. It feels good.
Jared Johnson’s latest Holdiay Customs signature bike
Cold night ride
Back when my sissy bar was way too big
My 5D2 arrived today. I had to put the 50 on it and take it for a 5 minute test drive before heading to work. First impressions: whoa, image quality. Very happy with the perspective and FOV with the 50. The RAW file in Lightroom looked rich and gorgeous, even without doing color editing. I could have converted to JPEG and been totally happy with it straight from RAW. Controls are a bit wonky after using the 7D, especially focus point selection and movie mode (which I don’t use anyway). Clearly the movie mode was just tacked onto the camera in haste.
Also, the recent 6D announcement made me facepalm upon heading the news. Of course they announce a 5D2 replacement (for about $400 more than what I paid through CLP) right after I bought a 5D2. Of course. I mean, I don’t care that much, but still.
And finally, I built the exhaust for my XS a few weeks ago. Bought about 200 bucks worth of stainless steel from Columbia Mandrel Bending, some TIG-stainless materials, and made a day of it. The build took from 10am until about 5pm, and I didn’t take a break. But the result is a good looking exhaust that’s loud and rad. It was the first time I welded stainless, and it came out nice. This was one of my favorite parts of the build, no doubt. I’d love to do another exhaust for another bike.
James Crowe’s XS650
After I finally got my motorcycle wired up, following months of fabrication, anticipation, and desire to ride it, I spent a day taking it on short jaunts to test drive it. The first test drive ended in towing the bike home (with my brother’s moto). The second test drive resulted in me almost having to push the bike home, though I managed to make it back. Thinking the bike was good to go, I took it on a third ride to my friend’s house 15 minutes away. I made it within a few blocks, and the charging system took a shit again.
Undeterred, I let the bike sit for 30 minutes and kicked it with my friends. Seeing light rain drops, I kicked the moto to life, jumped on, and headed toward home. 30 blocks from my house, it died again. This time, it seemed it was not going to start. The charging system wasn’t working, and the battery didn’t have the needed voltage to run. I started pushing it down the sidewalk, trying to beat the rain.
It was early June, and the spring rain was mostly gone. But this storm seemed it was going to be a big and intense one, not like the standard Oregon constant light drizzle. The air was dense, humid, and still, much like it is before a torrent in the mid-west. There was an eerie absence of activity and sound in the street. I pushed my bike down the sidewalk on Foster as fast as I could, trying to beat the deluge.
Though I was in a hurry, I had to stop and shoot a photo. The light was so nice and atmospheric— that perfect time of the day for photography when color and contrast are perfect and even and charming. Clearly, I didn’t nail the focus, but I like this shot nonetheless.
No more than two minutes after shooting this, the rain came. It was heavy. It was quick. It was intense in a flash-flooding, not at all north-western kind of way. The streets were rivers, the gutters were overflowing, the drops were heavy and explosive. I pushed on, soaked to the bone, camera dry inside my waterproof messenger bag. I thought not of the bare metal on the bike being exposed to the rain, and just focused on getting home. It took some time, but I made it, and vowed to bust my ass on the electrical system until the bike was reliable.
Jared Johnson’s Schwinn X XS650. I saw this one at his NoPO shop last fall. It’s way more impressive in person.
If you’ve been keeping up on my blog and my bike project, you might have seen a photo or two of the ever evolving project. In those photos, you can see the window bars I built last fall for the bike. Windows are pretty easy to build, because they don’t require bending tubes (aside from mild back-sweep). I built mine in the ADX metal shop with a MIG welder and some 7/8” DOM steel tube. Getting the bars square was the hardest part of the project, and over all they were pretty quick and dirty. I wasn’t super stoked with them; the window bar shape didn’t really flow with the lines of the bike. I wanted something with curve that matched the fender and sissy bar. So, with a new month of membership time at ADX (thanks to a half-off deal for the month of June), I spent my day off there yesterday tinkering with the bike. Last week, my brother Neal told me he’d find some tube benders for me, as he’s an electrician with IBEW and they have these things laying around. He texted me an told me I’d “just need a pair of balls to operate them.” He wasn’t kidding. It took quite a bit of force to bend the 1/8” wall tubing by hand. I took my time with it, made even bends, and spent lots of time fine tuning the sweep and position of the bars on the bike. I TIG welded the joints this time, since TIG welds are clean and aesthetically pleasing even without grinding them down, unlike dirty, splatter-y MIG welds. In the end, they look really nice, and even feel better with a lower riding position. Seth and I went for a quick ride last evening after I finished at the shop. We ended up caught in a downpour, but it was just as much fun to ride the bike as it was to wrench on it. Like I said, never ending project.
The other thing I took care of yesterday was the sissy bar/fender mount. I had previously welded the sissy bar arch to the fender itself, but the weld tore out after two days of riding. With the way that the XS 650 vibrates from the thumping twin pistons moving up and down their strokes in unison, it tends to rattle apart anything not built like a tank. I went back to the drawing board and came up with a way to bold the fender to the sissy bar, with re-enforced bolt holes in the fender to avoid torn metal in the future. It looks clean (I need some shorter machine screws, as these ones obviously have 1/4” too much length on them), and it’s mounted solid now. I feel like I could confidently strap a backpack on the sissy bar without worrying about it ripping a hole in the fender.
I have a number of other little things lined up for the bike this month at ADX, including installing a remote cable actuated front master cylinder, and dropping the seat rails a bit for a lower ride height, which will mean fabricating a new seat pan and seat mounts. By the end of the month, I’d like to have a professional upholstery job done with some diamond stitching. I’ve come to realize that I love riding the bike, but working on it is engrossing and fun, as well. That I can get to ADX early in the morning and work without stopping until 7PM— without ever noticing the time pass— says a lot.
The past few days have been packed with work on the Yamaha XS650 bobber project. It has been getting nice lately, and I decided that I really needed the bike in ride-able condition so I can get out and ride when it’s sunny.
Wednesday and Thursday I spend pouring over wiring diagrams, cutting, soldering, and routing wire on the bike. It was a big task, one that was fraught with problems early on in the process. My brother Neal and I were unable to get the bike to run after two wiring attempts, and I was unable to run it a third time after that. Some diligent internet research and some XS650 forum troubleshooting helped me to find the problem (grounded stator that should have been ungrounded) and make the bike run.
I put the bike in a truck and got it back to my house to finish small things, like protecting and hiding wiring, and plumbing the fuel system. But that wouldn’t be the end of issues: leaky fuel system, wrong petcock for the fuel tank, and bad plug wires were all left to deal with. I spent the better part of yesterday truing the 21 inch front wheel and getting the tire mounted, and I spent all day today dealing with the plug/wire and fuel situations. At one point, my brother Seth and I took the bike for a ride to see how it would run. We made it 15 blocks down Division, only to have the bike die. One cylinder was dead firing, and the carbs were way too rich. After diagnosis, we figured out the plug wires were the culprits, and I bought new plugs and wires, and re-jetted the carbs (again…).
But all the hard work payed off. I re-charged the battery tonight, gave the bike a hard kick, and it jumped to life. I mobbed it to the top of Mt. Tabor to see how it was running. At one point, I was worried it was going to die again, leaving me stranded, but I realized the fuel valve was off. Bullet dodged.
In the end, riding it puts an enormous smile on my face. I’m hyped. Now I need to pack some stuff on it, strap a tent to the sissy bar, and go camping.